is a day in Texas
that quite possibly could be considered one of the most tragic. On that day, March
27, 1836, General Santa Anna ordered the execution of some 380 Texas army soldiers
- they were prisoners of war. The men were part of the command of Col. James W.
Fannin, Jr. and they had surrendered to the Mexican army on March 20, 1836, at
the battle of Coleto Creek. Fannin had received assurances from the Mexican field
commander, Gen. Jose Urrea, that the Texans would eventually be paroled and sent
to New Orleans. Although Urrea probably had good intentions, Santa Anna over-ruled
him and commanded that the prisoners be slaughtered.
young German by the name of Hermann
was in the Texas army and was one of the few that escaped the Goliad massacre.
Ehrenberg wrote about his experiences in the Texas Revolution; selected passages
from his work, "A Campaign in Texas" appeared in The Gonzales Inquirer in 1853.
was an eyewitness and participant in this historic event - he wrote about it 17
years later. I'm of the opinion that his memory was still very clear and I'd be
inclined to believe his description of what really took place on that terrible
are excerpts of Ehrenberg's article as he tells of his experience on that tragic
Palm Sunday in 1836. (Note: The spelling and grammar is that of the author, nothing
has been changed in the article).
Grave of Fannin and his men, view through an adjoining cemetery|
Gonzales Inquirer - December 3, 1853|
By Hermann Ehrenberg
the names had been called, the order to march was given, and we filed out through
the gates of the fortress, the Greys [New Orleans Greys, a volunteer unit from
Louisiana] taking the lead. Outside the gate we were received by two detachments
of Mexican infantry, who marched along on either side of us, in the same order
as ourselves. We were 400 in number, and the enemy about 700, not including the
cavalry, of which numerous small groups were scattered about the prairie.
marched in silence, not, however, in the direction we had anticipated, but along
the road to Victoria.
This surprised us but, upon reflection, we concluded that they were conducting
us to some eastern port, thence to be shipped to New Orleans, which, upon the
whole, was perhaps the best and shortest plan.
was something, however, in the profound silence of the Mexican soldiers, who are
usually unceasing chatters, that inspired me with a feeling of uneasiness and
anxiety. It was like a funeral march, and truly might it be so called. Presently
I turned my head to see if Miller's people had joined, and were marching with
us. But to my extreme astonishment, neither they nor Fannin's men or the battalion,
were to be seen.
soldier reenactors at Goliad|
Photo courtesy Jerry Tubbs
had separated from us without our observing it, and the detachment with which
I was marching consisted only of the Greys and a few Texan colonists. Glancing
at the escort, their full dress uniform, and the absence of all baggage, now for
the first time struck me. I thought of the bloody scenes that had occurred at
Tampico, San Patricio,
and the Alamo, of the false
and cruel character of those in whose power we were, and I was seized with a presentiment
of an hour had elapsed since our departure from the fort, when suddenly the command
was given in Spanish to wheel to the left, leaving the road: and as we did not
understand the order, the officer himself went in front to show the way, and my
companions followed without taking any particular notice of the change of direction.
We were marched along the side of the hedge towards the stream, and suddenly
the thought flashed across us, "Why are they taking us in this direction?" The
appearance of a number of lancers, cantering about in the fields on our right,
also startled us; and just as the foot soldiers who had been marching between
us and the hedge, changed their places, and joined those of their comrades, who
guarded us on the other hand.
we could divine the reason of this maneuver the word was soon given to halt. It
came like a sentence of death; for at the same moment it was uttered, the sound
of a volley of musketry echoed across the prairie. We then thought of our comrades
and our probable fate.
down!" Now burst in harsh accents from the lips of the Mexican commander. No one
stirred. Few of us understood the order, and those who did would not obey. The
Mexican soldiers, who stood at about three paces from us, leveled their muskets
at our breasts. Even then we could hardly believe that they meant to shoot us;
for if we had, we should assuredly have rushed forward in our desperation, and,
weaponless though we were, some of our murders would have met their death at our
of a second volley, from a different direction then the first just then reached
our ears, and was followed by a confused cry, as if those at whom it had been
aimed, had not all been immediately killed. A thick cloud of smoke was wreathing
and curling towards the San Antonio River.
blood of our lieutenant was on my clothes, and around me lay my friends convulsed
with their last agony. I saw nothing more. Unhurt myself, I sprang up and, concealed
by the thick smoke, fled along the hedge in the direction of the river, the noise
of the water for my guide.
I went, the river rolled at my feet, the shouting and yelling behind. "Texas forever!"
And without a moment's hesitation, I plunged into the water. The bullets whistled
round me as I swam slowly and wearily to the other side, but none wounded me.
these horrible scenes were occurring on the prairies, Col. Fannin and his wounded
companions were shot and bayoneted at Goliad,
only Dr. Shackleford and a few hospital aids having their lives spared, in order
that they might attend the wounded Mexicans.
Published with permission.
& Related Stories
at Goliad: A Texas Tragedy
by Jeffery Robenalt|
The massacre at Goliad branded Santa Anna as an
inhuman despot and the Mexican people, whether deserved or not, with a reputation
for cruelty. As a result of the needless slaughter, a burning desire for revenge
arose among the people of Texas, and Americans became firmly united behind the
Texas cause of independence.The
Life and Times of a Goliad Survivor
by Murray Montgomery
The story of Hermann EhrenbergA
by Bob Bowman (From "All Things Historical")
one of only 28 survivors of the massacre.Thomas
Deye Owings of Maryland, Kentucky and Texas by W. T. Block Jr.
"He was a colonel and hero of the War of 1812 [and] was Kentucky's original
industrialist and iron master, also holding several political offices. He was
also commissioned by Stephen F. Austin in Jan. 1836 to raise 2 regiments of Kentuckians
to fight for Texas Independence from Mexico, sacrificing as a result the life
of one of his sons during the Goliad Massacre..."
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